Crabapple, Linden, Spruce, Oh My. The Great Tree Debate!

Their are so many tree options for your yard. It can be hard to decide which one is the right one for you. Let’s discuss a few of the basic differences, but ultimately you’ll want to find out more about each particular tree your considering before making a final choice

Flowering Trees

Pyrus callyranna

Flowering Pear

Flowering tree’s add texture and color to your landscape. Most are early bloomers, so they give you some of your first splash of color come spring. They are also typically smaller in size and stature so they give you a tree option without requiring tons of space.  These would probably not be on the top of the list for helping with utility bills; although they may be a good choice for screening in some situations. 

Shade Trees

Acer x Freemanii

Freeman Maple

However; shade tree’s are great for helping control utility bills if planted in the correct place. Place a large shade tree near the southwest corner of your house and it will help keep your house cool and shady in summer but allow light and warmth through in winter.  Shade tree’s typically have a wide spectrum of fall colors as well, adding to their appeal.  This is due to the different chemicals produced in the leaf (some year round) although that is a discussion for another day.

Fruit Trees


Apple Tree

Fruit tree’s serve a very specific purpose and should be considered only if your willing to put in a little extra effort to care for your tree’s. Most of these tree’s all require multiple chemical applications each year to keep them healthy and producing great fruit.  It is important to note as well, that for many of the fruits that are popular and grow well in our region, you do in fact, need more than one tree to actually produce fruit.


Columnar Spruce

Columnar Spruce

Evergreens’ are great as sound, visual, or wind barrier’s as they always have needle structure present.  (Just a tidbit though, evergreens’ do actually drop their needles, it just happens during  the needles thirds year of growth.  By then, new needles have started growing so most people never even notice the change.)  They also carry a distinct style with many shape and even color options to choose from. From vase shapes to weeping forms, or round wispy tree’s to broad pyramidal structures, you’re sure to find an evergreen that appeals to your sense of style.


No matter what your goal, tree’s add a distinct flare and important balance to your landscape. In  your landscape, we refer to them as the ceiling of your outdoor living space.  They should not be overlooked. Take some time, do your homework, and choose a tree (or two) that your going to love for many, many years to come.














So fall has arrived and we are reaching the end of another growing season…..for plants, hopefully not for us. It has been such a wonderful year so far that Mother Nature doesn’t want it to end without one more little fireworks display.  I, personally, consider the fall to be Nature’s celebration of yet another successful year.  Soon, the killing frost will be upon us, but before happens, let’s get one more “WOW” from this amazing World we’ve been given.  The question is, how does Mother Nature pull off this fantastic extravaganza?

Would you believe that those amazing colors were actually there all along?  I’m sure you all learned about good ole photosynthesis waaaaaaaay back in grade school.  In a nutshell, or perhaps more appropriately in a leaf cell, photosynthesis is photosynthesisthe process in which plants convert water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen.  Without getting to far into the science behind this process, essentially the chloroplast cells (which are a key part of the process of photosynthesis) collect the photons from the sun to begin the light reactions in photosynthesis.  The chemicals present called chlorophyll reflects the green rays resulting in a green pigment.  Now assuming the plant is getting plenty of moisture and sunlight, the chlorophyll is so intense that it actually manages to turn the entire leaf a green hue.  However, during the fall months as daylight lessens and temperatures begin to drop the plants begin to slow these processes down.  With the plants slowing this process, they create less and less chlorophyll and other chemicals in the plant can then step up and express themselves”.

Caratonoids and Anthocyanins are two other chemicals present in leaves cells.  The Carotanoids are actually present year round, but the chlorophyll creates a much stronger pigment.  Thus it is only when the process of photosynthesis slows and chlorophyll dissipates, that the caratanoids can show their pigment.  These caratanoids are responsible of the yellow and orange leaf color we get during fall periods.  The anthocyanins’ which not all plants produce, give us those amazing reds that stand out so well during the fall fireworks display.  It is not truly understood why some plants produce anthocyanins, however some scientists believe that it is actually a response to cooler temperatures.  An attempt by the cells to protect against potential frost.  Regardless, the result is an incredible view.


No matter what the reasons, the how, or the why, one thing is for certain; Mother Nature is a genius.  The fact that we get one last “show” from these organisms that are so vital to our existence is nothing short of a miracle.  We have a front row season to a true celebration of life.  We get to witness Nature in all its splendor and glory.  I highly recommend you get out there and take advantage.   Don’t forget, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!!

Would you like to add water to your landscape?

People have so many concerns about having a water feature in their landscape. the primary objection we get to the suggestion of a new water feature is that they are so much maintenance; however that does not have to be the case. There are several low maintenance options for water features:

• Bubbling Boulders
• “Pondless” Waterfalls
• Tiered/Ornamental Fountain

moss featureWaterfalls are a powerful addition to any landscape.  Their is nothing like having a pond with Koi swimming around in it.  However, you will certainly have some maintenance if that is the route you choose to go. As a general rule, fish need some work.  You have to protect them from predators and you have to make sure the water stays healthy to prevent diseases like Ich, a very common disease caused by a parasite that grows in ponds.  But you can certainly gain some extravagance with a pondless falls and you can avoid much of the maintenance as well. You still want to maintain a level of beneficial bacteria in the pond to help control things like string algae and dicoloration. It’s an easy treatment though, and relatively inexpensive.  It’s just a matter of adding a little of the treatment at regular intervals.  That’s not too tough, now is it?  If you build your feature under trees’ you may have some added maintenance of cleaning out leaves but you have to do that in your yard anyway!

pondless 3

Have limited space but still want some “pop”, you could consider installing a bubbling rock feature near your front door or patio.  You still enjoy the wonderful, relaxing sound of water with practically no work at alBubbler 2l. You can do drilled boulders, flagstone, or even pots that fill up and spill over back into the landscape.  You can create this style of feature in any shape or size and can most certainly find create one to fit any space, big or small.  These wonderful features have virtually no maintenance attached to them although you’ll not want to completely ignore them.

One thing to consider no matter what feature you choose, is that you will have to add water occasionally.  This frequency will mostly be dictated by things like how much splash occurs in your feature as well as the typical humidity in your area.  More splash and higher humidity means adding water more often.  Not to worry though, if you have a sprinkler system in your yard already.  If your one of the lucky folks that doesn’t have to drag hoses across your yard, then you shouldn’t have to stand with a hose filling your water feature either.  You can install what basically amounts to a toilet flapper valve in your water basin that will connect into your sprinkler system supply line.  Then if your water level gets to a point that is below the preferred level it will open the valve.  Then once your sprinkler system runs, it will feed water into the pond and you don’t have to do a thing!  Easy as pie, see, I told you low maintenance.

One more option for something more “fancy”, an ornamental fountain that would be practically maintenance free. The options are limitless and the enjoyment is up to you!bubbler

What Would Your Perfect Patio Be?

When you dream of your perfect outdoor entertaining space what is included? Is it just a space to sit and enjoy a relaxing meal with your family? Or is it a space where all your friends can gather and mingle on a gorgeous midwestern evening? Do you like the “old world” feel of cobbles under your feet or a more modern look of smooth slate in a random pattern.  Their are so many material options and they very greatly in price from simple brick ( on the cheap end) to a look of random flagstone without the chipping or instability (on the more expensive end).Evening Patio Would you like to include an outdoor kitchen in your new space, of perhaps you’d prefer a new “living room” complete with a matching fire place, mantle, and wood boxes. What about utilizing both, with varying materials to ensure the space has the feel of independent rooms, or keep it simple and maintain the same textures throughout the space. Would you like a “roof “ over your patio and maybe even a TV for enjoying fall football games just like your in the stadium? Pergola’s are becoming more and more common even in smaller patio spaces.  Your outdoor room should be an extension of your home. A good designer will tie the patio space into the rest of the existing landscape or give you all new plantings to ensure the patio area blends seamlessly into the yard. In the end, your new patio should be a space you are proud of and can’t wait to get home and relax in. Let’s be honest, that’s really how you should feel about your home, isn’t it!


Alright, I admit it! I’ve been terrible with my blog posts this season, but I’ll tell you one thing; aside from slacking on my blog, IT HAS BEEN AN AMAZING YEAR!!!

Council Bluffs Style

Council Bluffs Style

So as most of you know, I started the season still with Earl May.  Around mid May, after much consideration, I made the decision to switch companies.  I jumped in head first and never looked back.  Let’s just say that Patera Landscaping is quite a bit more active in the Omaha market than Earl May would ever hope to be. It’s been great to meet so many great new clients that were actually interested in landscapes, not just little odds and ends work.  I’ve done some full scale projects this season.  I just wish I was a better photographer so you could truly get a feel for some of these new landscapes.

Miss Jillian, my little monkey

Miss Jillian, my little monkey

However, the job isn’t all that is new.  My Wife and I added another baby to our family this year.  Well, several in truth (as we are still foster parents), but only one that became a part of our Forever Family.  Jillian officially became a Mascarello in the Spring of this year.  She came to us at only a few days old, so i was ecstatic to know that I got to keep her forever!  I’m good now, we’ve got two boys and two girls, and one grandson (man, I’m too young for that, lol). She is a more than welcome addition.  She adds some excitement and a little drama and I look forward to watching her grow into a fabulous young woman, just like her Mommy and her big Sissy.

Happy Hollow Hobbit Hole

Happy Hollow Hobbit Hole

Anyway, back to the landscaping.  As I said, it’s been a great year here at Patera Landscaping.  We have completed several typical projects, but we’ve thrown in a couple really out of the box ones as well.  I can officially check Hobbit Hole off my list of creations.  Although I have to be honest, it wasn’t really on the list prior to that phone call.  When it was all said and done, I think it turned out alright.  The photos’ I posted on Facebook when this project was over it certainly got rave reviews.  Personally, I think I would have rather built an Ewok Village than a hobbit hole, but whatever, lol.

Flagstone Patio in South O

Flagstone Patio in South O

I think what I appreciate the most is those of you who had been my clients prior to the change and have chose to stick with me!  I can’t tell you how good that makes a guy feel to know it was you someone was “buying” and not the plant or the company name.  Thanks for that!  If not for folks like you I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to add things like the cool little flagstone patio to a yard I’ve already spent so much time in.  Honestly, that ranks up there on the list of top projects too, regardless of size or scope.

I guess the point is, it’s been a crazy year.  I hope you’ve all had a great year as well.  I hope it’s been safe, enjoyable, lucrative, whatever you want out of your perfect year.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and have a safe and wonderful New Year.  Here’s to 2015 being just as good or even better than 2014!!!!!

Oh, and don’t forget,  GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!!!

Just a few more samples….

Pathway to tranquility

Pathway to tranquility

Hydrangea Happiness

Hydrangea Happiness

Rustic Papio Renovation

Rustic Papio Renovation

Holy Moly, how has everyone been?

I tell you what, its been a pretty crazy season.  Nearly 6 months since i posted last, and this won’t be a long one.  Just a quick hello to let you know that I am still here!  We’ve done some pretty cool projects this summer.   A couple of cool water features and quite a big of plantings as well.  I’ll tell you what though; I have sure sold quite a few drainage solution projects as well. I can honestly say that would probably make up the largest portion of sales for the season.   It’s not all that surprising when you consider the amount of rain we’ve had here in the Midwest.   Things have been wild on the home front as well.   My wife and I adopted our daughter Jillian early spring and have had a couple other foster placements since then also.  My back has gotten bad again which makes me less active (and just plain sucks).   Probably going to have to man up and get the surgery this wi9, but I guess we’ll see.   Anyway,   I promise some more posts soon.  In the meantime,  check out the link to my Facebook page for some pictures of the seasons installations. And as always,  GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!

Tony Mascarello Landscape Design

Don’t Think Your All Alone!

Not going to be a long post today, just a quick note to help some of my friends out there feel better about their gardening skills.  I just wanted to set some minds at ease.  To those of you who have old yews, rhodies, or other evergreens that don’t appear to have survived the winter, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES!  I talked in the fall about the importance of watering in the winter months when possible and here is the proof of it’s necessity.  Many, many of you have serious damage to old, established evergreens which you have never given any special care before during the winter.  My point is you’ve been lucky till now, LOL!

ImageNow don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I told you so, (but I did tell you so).  I’m just saying that many of you have recently become Mother Nature’s latest victims.  Your evergreens have been assaulted with winter burn due to lack of moisture during the long dry months and crazy temps.  And sadly, there is a very high probability that all your precious plants have “shuffled off their barky coil”.  Many rhodies out there look just like the sad little guy in the picture.  And even his distinguished big brothers and sisters look quite similar.  Many coniferous shrubs do appear to still have a spark of life in them, but will they ever fully recover is very difficult to predict.



As you can see from this photo, their does still appear to be a glimmer of hope here, albeit very slight.  In this case, the best recommendation I have is that you immediately begin DEEP watering and get some good evergreen fertilizer or one with a high nitrogen content (the first of the 3 numbers listed on the package) according to the fertilizer instruction.

I would throw out there, that I don’t suggest trimming plants or worse than that, replacing them, until your certain they are not going to recover.  I know it can be tough to except since they tend to be unattractive while injured, but give them the summer to recover and if you still don’t see and results, then replace them either that fall or spring of the next season.  That being said if a coniferous evergreen completely drops its needles, it is NOT likely to recover.

Now, another family of plants that seems to have taken a massive hit this winter is roses.  However, I would certainly like to reassure you; just because all the old canes on your rose are grey and break easily, the plant is certainly NOT deceased.  Many roses will die back to the ground during difficult winters.  Then they will produce new shoots far down on old canes or even directly up from the ground off of old healthy root systems.  After you begin to see the new shoots feel free to trim back the old canes.  Again though, your going to want to feed with a good fertilizer (either a balanced mix or one specifically designed for your particular species of rose.) And of course, get the poor little guy some water!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got today.  Like I said, I just wanted you to know that your not alone.  And as always, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!!!

Spring is here….No it isn’t……Yes, it is!

Well, for sure Mother Nature has been crazy this year, but we can’t let her Bipolar tendencies ruin our Spring.  It’s time to get out and get your green on.  Many of you have got your gardens in full swing and hopefully they are doing well.  Potatoes are going in the ground.  I’ve got a cousin who had a picture on Facebook of the back of her minivan loaded with chopped up seed potatoes…..that may be a bit much, but at least I’ll know who to call when I run out.  Onions and asparagus are growing as well.  Don’t forget that you want to let your asparagus grow for a couple seasons before harvesting the first time.  After that, it’s fair game!  Spring cleanup projects are moving along and my crews have been busy as can be raking leaves, digging edges, and spreading mulch……now if I can just find the motivation to clean up my own yard.  Might have to just pony up some dough to Deman to get him out there!  Either way, here is a list of tasks that your landscape probably needs to have completed and some guidance on proper techniques for getting them done.

First and foremost is the obviousYard Cleanup one; just like your yard, you want to get as much of the leaves out as possible.  Yes leaves are good from one perspective.  They do break down and return organic material to the soil.  However, if they are left to decompose on top of your perennials that are trying to break through, they can actually choke those new little plants out.  If you want to leave some leaves (pun intended)  in the landscape, I would recommend that you till the leaves in a bit between your plants but clear out the spaces where you know you got flowers planted.  This will rebuild the soil, but also protect the flowers you’ve invested your time and money into.  Personally, when it comes to removing leaves, I absolutely LOVE my blower/vac.  It is in my indispensable tools category.  Gas or electric is irrelevant (although mine is gas).  The only down side to this tool, is that if the leaves are wet, it doesn’t work quite as well as when they are dry.  On the upside, it is easier than raking, and they mulch the leaves as they vacuum allowing for the use of less leaf bags, or trips to the dump. Trust me, this little tool can be a real back-saver.

The next little back saver I would offer up would be an edging machine.  However, if you don’t have much landscape to edge, I wouldn’t recommend renting one of these bad boys.  This does bring us to our next step though, which is to re-edge your bed.  Assuming your landscape beds have a “natural edge” trench as a border, this will likely need to be touched up every season or two to fight back encroaching grass.  First, you want to use a hard rake to pull back all the good mulch to be re-used after the new edge is dug.  Next, get yourself a nice sharp straight edge spade and stick that guy in the soil along the edge of your bed about 4-5 inches deep.  Put your foot flat behind the spade to brace it then dig up the soil and grass that is in the bed area.  At this point, your best bet is to throw that soil and grass in a wheelbarrow to be disposed of either somewhere in the yard or taken to the dump.  You don’t want to just toss it into the beds because the grass roots will simply take holder deeper into the bed creating more of a mess.   Your goal is to create around a 4 inch deep trench along the edge of the bed to keep mulch in and grass out!

Once you’ve created a nice new barrier between your lawn and landscape it’s time to do a little preventative maintenance.  I highly suggest that you put down a per-emergent herbicide at this stage of the process.  Something like, Preen or Treflan weed preventer with added fertilizer would be a good choice.  In most cases these are not terribly expensive and they will help on two different fronts.  The fertilizer will give your plants a nice meal to kick the season off, and the herbicide should prevent a weed barrier that will last at least a couple months into the season.  Many of these products come in an easy to use containers with shaker lids for quick applications.  I actually suggest you use these products two to three times a season.  the plants will appreciate the extra food and your back will again appreciate that it doesn’t have to bend over to pull nearly as many weeds.

However, now it’s time for some “back-breaking” work.  Now good way to make this easier, you just have to suck it up and get it done.  It’s time to “top-dress” the mulch in your beds!!  Whether you are using bag mulch or bulk is not going to make for any less work.  Either way you’ve got to get those chopped up little tree pieces over to where you want them.  Then you’ve got to dump them and then you’ve got to spread them all over in the bed.  It’s going to be a little work no matter how you do it, so be prepared!  Now for my brief note on mulch choices:  Standard shredded hardwood mulch is by far the cheapest option and for all intents and purposes, the one with the smallest carbon footprint.  The dyed mulches of course are simply hardwood mulch that has been dyed……I have NO IDEA with what.  While I’m sure it’s not toxic, I don’t know what it is, so keep that in mind.  Also, that dye that your paying almost twice the mulch price for is going to fade…..fairly quickly in full sun.  Eventually it will look the same as the standard un-dyed mulch, so it is really worth the cost.  If I’m going to spend the extra cash, I’m going for the cedar mulch.  It’s going to take longer to decay, it’s a unique color, and it’s going to have a cool cedar fragrance for at least a while.  Also, since cedar doesn’t decay as fast, it tends to not attract insects like other mulches may.  Although their are numerous other options for mulch, the last one I am going to touch on is cypress mulch.  Visually cypress is very similar to cedar.  However, cypress can only be harvested at certain times of the year and is typically not replanted.  It is slower growing than cedar which makes it a much less sustainable resource.  Considering the point of landscaping is to beautify the environment, using a non sustainable resource seems a little hypocritical to me, but that’s all I’m going to say about that, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.   Once you’ve got your mulch to your beds, the best way to spread it, in my opinion, is with a hard rake.  Once you’ve got it all raked out, take your rake, turn the tines over and use the back to tamp the new mulch level.  This will give a much cleaner appearance to your finished landscape.

After leveling all your mulch, you should get a hose out and soak it all down very well.  This will activate the fertilizer and will also create a moisture layer for your young plants.  It will also help keep that light mulch from blowing everywhere across your yard, which is a definite plus considering how much work you just put in.  And that is it, in a nut shell.  Different landscape may require some additional steps such as cutting down grasses or dividing certain perennials, but for the most part, these few tasks will keep your landscape looking fantastic year after year.  So get out your rake and let’s clean up our landscapes together.  I’ll see you out there, and as always:



The Future of Landscaping?!

I’ll admit, I try to get to all the garden shows that are in my area every year.  I’ve personally spent many hours setting up extensive unique displays only to see very little return on my and my companies investment of time and capital.  The worst part is you know that at least 75% of the leads you draw from a given show (even the pre-qualified leads) will still be a competition between your company and probably two or three others that had displays.  At that point, a designer has to ask himself, is it even worth my time to go through this every year, sometimes more than once.  I’ll tell you what I found from the show I attended this weekend.  And I’ll be honest, if that is the future of Landscaping and Gardening in the Midwest, then we are so far from the “cutting edge” it’s sad.  But I guess the good thing is, when your that far from the edge, you can never fall off.

Does it get any more basic, and boring, than this!

Does it get any more basic, and boring, than this!

Now don’t get me wrong, this hardscaping is certainly a hot ticket these days.  With so many people cutting back on generic spending, they are looking to put their money somewhere they may see a return on their investment.  Any sort of outdoor garden expansion generally creates an increase in a properties value since if it is executed properly, the garden should add livable space to the home.  Whether that space be for entertaining, playing, or quiet contemplation is solely up to the discretion of the home owner.   That doesn’t mean it has to be the same space as the neighbor up the street.  Just as “track homes” have lost their flare even to the price conscious, I have to believe that a cookie cutter backyard provides no appeal to Joe and Jenny Home Owner.   People are using their space in far more creative and hands on ways, and something like this display just tells me that this contractor doesn’t realize there is more to life than this.

A Nice mix of Fire and Water yet still not terribly creative.

A Nice mix of Fire and Water yet still not terribly creative.

Please don’t misunderstand, I did find a few things I liked at the show.  This bubbler rock with a fire “topper” intrigued me a bit.  Although not terribly creative, at is still more unique than the average fire pit you saw in almost all the other displays.   The combination adds a nice touch of class while still providing at touch of nature at the same time.  I would like to see this taken to the next level and instead of being in the garden on the edge of a patio, use permeable paver’s and a rain water harvesting system and put this bad boy right in the middle of your patio where you would install any other fire pit.    What bothered me the most is the fact that the last year I was involved in a show display was the last year I saw ANY contractors promoting any sort of rain water harvesting or permeable pavement systems.  These sustainable landscape methods are becoming common practice in many parts of the country but are still struggling to catch on here in good ole Omaha, Nebraska.  I’m not going to lie, this bothers me quite a bit that more contractors aren’t promoting these methods and systems.  That being said, I know from experience, many people feel they are environmentally conscious right up until they see the cost attached.  While I do admit, many of these systems do carry a higher up front cost than your typical landscape, can we really compare the two.  One is making a patio and planting some flowers, while the other is reducing our carbon footprint, utilizing natural resources, AND STILL creating a wonderful space to enjoy.  This coupled with the fact that utilizing these systems will eventually create a “return of investment” by reducing utility costs as well.  That being said, it really is a commitment to living more sustainably to leave something better for the future.  Okay, I’m done preaching about that, now back to my thoughts on the show.

Cool take on the old stand by fire pit.

Cool take on the old stand by fire pit.

As I said, I did find a few nice ideas to take away from the show.  The unique burner installed on this fire pit gives it some pretty cool character and does create a bit of a break from the norm of its boring old square parents.  Still let’s be honest, it still just like it’s daddy, it just got a new piercing to rebel like most kids do these days.  Perhaps a figure eight shape melding two round pits each with one of these towering at its center would be enough to wow me these days.  I fear I may be becoming just a bit jaded, but with a new IPhone every 6 weeks, I guess I feel like my fire pits should be unique and updated too.  Biggest complaint about this is they used river rock in it.  Even grey lava would have given this a better texture in my opinion.  Although I do have to admit, there is one trend I am riding right now.  That is the use of glass chips in fire pits.  Again, in my humble opinion, there is no better texture available at the moment for your fire features.  And with the myriad of color choices you can really get it to blend with the color pallet of your adjoining gardens.

Interesting but could have been so much more creative.

Interesting but could have been so much more creative.

Even this wonderful, large water feature shows a phenomenal lack of creativity on the part of the contractor.  The simply took two very distinct tools out of their “design bucket” and slapped them together in one site.   At least in the first picture I shared, they attempted to blend the fire and water.  Here they simply dropped a fire boulder right in the middle of the pond.  Where’s the “splash”, where’s the thoughtfulness, where’s the NEW?  Perhaps had the put the fire directly on the surface of the water, or moved a burner to under the upper falls so that the fire burned behind the water they may have achieved something special.  Instead, it just appears like they didn’t have any creative thought process, they simply wanted to show as many items they could shove into one space as possible.  Unfortunately, the result doesn’t work for me.

At the end of the day, I can tell you a few things for sure.  First, there were far fewer contractors with displays in the show I attended last week compared to the shame show in previous years.  Sad, but a testament to my belief that aside from getting your name in front of a potentially large number of people, there is little in the way of returns for an established contractor in these events.  Second, of all the contractors in this years show that I have seen there in years past, very few had even CHANGED THEIR DISPLAY FROM LAST YEAR!  Now, believe me, I KNOW how much these shows cost us as contractors, but that REALLY shows  a lack of creativity or effort on the part of the contractors involved.  The way I see it, if your going to spend the money anyway, why not be different and find a niche that you can promote yourself with.  Even if it doesn’t blast off, like the the rain water harvesting systems I had in my display one year, at least folks will remember YOUR display over every other patio and fire pit they saw.

Anyway, point of the story is, don’t be satisfied with your grandma’s landscape unless your grandma is the awesome grandma that would sit and play Atari with you before video games were even cool!  Their are so many unique things you can do with your outdoor living space, so don’t just jump on the first idea you see.  And the last thing I would like to leave you with, is if your going to spend the money anyway, why not try to improve not just your own life and space, but leave it better than when you got here and consider installing some of the more environmentally friendly options available to you.  Even if that just means getting “your feet wet” with a rain barrel on your patio (it’s like a gateway drug), trust me you; you won’t regret it!


Anyone Else Getting Anxious For Some Green?!?!

It’s the beginning of February and we’ve reached what may be the coldest temps of the season so far (at least here in the Midwest).  I saw a funny post on Facebook yesterday (one of those goofy e-cards everyone seems to have on their pages now) stating, “I’m tired of winter.  I want to fast-forward so I can bitch about how hot it is!”  Guess you had to be there, but I thought it was funny….AEcardnyway, if you are getting the green urges there are certainly some things you can do to quench your thirst, if only a little.

The first, and lowest commitment, task you could do would be to begin setting goals and planning your summer garden activities.  Do you plan on changing up your landscape at all?  What is working in your landscaping and what isn’t?  Did you find a new plant last summer that you just couldn’t fit into your beds?  Now is the time to look back at your plantings and decide if you want to change anything up.  Perhaps you’ve got some Little Henry Sweetspire in a foundation bed that don’t seem to be growing as well as those further out in the yard.  Start thinking about where there might be some  space further out that you could move the smaller guys but still have a nice flow in your beds.  It’s not uncommon at all the the same plant will grow differently in two different areas of your yard.  We call this “putting the right plant in the right place”.  Even in the same yard different micro-climates can occur and if a plant is borderline hardy it may do well in one location of your yard but not in another.  Perhaps the Sweetspire are just not getting the same moisture under the eve of your roof as the ones out further in the yard or perhaps it’s more shade than they would prefer.  Any number of things can affect the growth of a plant and it takes some work and even some trial and error to learn what will work well in your space.  Now that you’ve decided to move that Sweetspire, you can start doing your homework to decide if that Hydrangea you found last summer is a good fit for the vacated space.

The first thin I would caution is completely trusting the tag on a particular plant.  While these tags are a perfect jumping off point, they seldom have all the information a person truly needs to adhere to that “right plant, right place” concept.  Worse than that, if your buying your plants from a “Box-shop” (a big name chain that isn’t strictly a plant centered business) I have seen many instances where the tags are just plain wrong.

Not all tags are created equally.

Not all tags are created equally.

These places hire folks who typically have no horticulture background or knowledge and sometimes tags get accidentally switched or lost and these people sadly don’t have sufficient education to know the difference.  Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying you shouldn’t buy your plants from a box-shop (but you shouldn’t buy your plants from a box-shop, lol); however, I do highly recommend that your do your homework prior to purchasing.   With the internet practically in everyone’s pocket these days, there is no excuse for being uninformed.  Again, though, I would caution against trusting the internet mail order sites.  Many of those sites know just as little as the box-shops do sadly.  I would steer you towards websites that are managed by universities or botanical centers.  Generally, these are updated on a more regular basis and the information is based on research and experience.  Honestly, my go-to website if I’m not sure about a particular plant is the Missouri Botanical Garden Website Plant Finder Resource.  This source is great for me because it is close to home with a similar climate and it’s an extensive database.  Others such as the USDA plant database, or Ohio State University and UConn are excellent resources as well.  All I’m saying is do a little research before you buy that plant and stick it in the border of your landscape just because the tag said it was full sun and it only gets 18 inches tall.  That may be the case in Tennessee, but in your zone it is actually part shade and as a result gets closer to 30 inches tall (just an example, but you never know).

The point of the story is DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE IT UP!  As a general rule, your garden space is a living, breathing thing that will (and SHOULD) change over time.  Plants will die, things will grow differently than we expected, and our tastes will change.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of throwing away perfectly healthy plants.  But you don’t have to kill plants for these changes to occur.  I can assure you, even if you don’t like a particular plant or can’t find the perfect place for it in your garden, you know someone who would or knows someone else who would gladly give that plant a new home!

So there you have it, thseed packse first tip for curing your wintertime blues!  Next time will discuss another surefire way to clear out the winter cobwebs.  A much more hands on task than playing on the internet!  Next blog we will talk about planning for your kitchen garden!  I will share seed starting tips and time-frames as well as ideas for a well rounded kitchen garden.  I’ll also provide insight into some of the tools you can use to increase success and ideas for saving cash while still utilizing those tools.